China-Arab forum to broaden cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative

The eighth ministerial meeting of China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) will open in Beijing on Tuesday, during which the two sides are expected to broaden cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese experts said.

President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony on Tuesday at Beijing's Great Hall of the People and deliver a speech, which is expected to bring ties between China and Arab states to new heights, Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong told a press briefing on Friday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The meeting will gather Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, foreign ministers or other ministerial officials from 21 Arab countries, as well as the secretary general of the Arab League, according to Xinhua.

The main question for the Arab world is that, in terms of development, how to take full and express advantage of the Belt and Road Initiative, Wang Jinglie, a research fellow at the Middle East and Africa Research Network told the Global Times on Monday.

"The Arab countries should stand clear of the current international situation and seek common ground while putting aside differences to seize the historical opportunity," he said.

"China and the Arab countries are now reaching a transition phase of development, in which the two sides could still play complementary roles under the Belt and Road Initiative," Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Monday.

Liu indicated that despite further enlarging cooperation on energy to trading in the entirety of the upstream and downstream market for the whole industry, the two sides could also broaden cooperation to more areas including infrastructure construction, aviation and people's livelihood.

When meeting with the Arab League (AL) Secretary General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit on Sunday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on China and the Arab states to deepen strategic cooperation, continue to support each other on issues concerning respective core interests, and play their due roles in promoting peace and stability in the region and the world.

"China has been playing a constructive role in the Middle East in cracking down on terrorism and maintaining regional stability," Liu noted, "and security cooperation would be an issue to be discussed in the upcoming meeting."

According to Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong, several documents will be adopted during the meeting, including a Beijing declaration and a 2018-2020 action plan, covering more than 10 areas of cooperation.

The documents will blueprint a clear road map for the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative in the future, he said.

The CASCF, founded 16 years ago and ever increasing in size and influence, has facilitated China's cooperation and communication with the Arab states as a whole, Xinhua reported.

The forum was initiated after China and the countries of the Arab world had witnessed a steady growth in cooperation, generating the need for a new mechanism to fully exploit their potential and further enhance their cooperative relations.

China has signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative with nine Arab countries, as well as cooperation documents on energy with five. In 2017, trade volume between the two sides reached $200 billion, an 11.9 percent increase year-on-year, People's Daily reported Monday.

Editor: 曹家宁
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